Skin Cancer Prevention Program Now Used in 90 Nevada Schools
For many people, being out in the sun means play time and sports. But these fun activities can increase the chance of getting skin cancer from too much exposure to UV rays, which can damage skin cells.
Damage from UV rays during childhood can cause skin cancer later in life. Childhood is also the time when young people build habits they’ll carry into adulthood. The state’s schools, however, had no programs in place for sun safety education or to support sun protection habits.
The Nevada Cancer Coalition started the Sun Smart Schoolsexternal icon program in seven schools in 2015. The program teaches students how to protect their skin from too much exposure to the sun. It also encourages schools to create sun safety policies, including providing shade and sunscreen to students on school grounds.
In just 3 years, the program expanded to 42 schools. After participating in the program, students knew more about sun safety. Implementation of Sun Smart Schools, however, was voluntary and schools sometimes needed on-site champions to make sure school sunscreen policies were consistent with the program.
School Sun Safety Policies Become State Law
The Coalition educated state legislators and other decision makers about the importance of having sun safety programs in schools. State senator Joyce Woodhouse, a former elementary school principal whose husband died of melanoma, sponsored Senate Bill 159, which requires schools to adopt sun safety policies. The bill became law on July 1, 2019, and all public school districts in Nevada have now adopted sun safety policies.
Eleven districts now have 90 schools participating in the Sun Smart Schools program, reaching nearly 30,000 students. In the 2020–2021 school year, nearly 200 teachers received program toolkits. Schools can also choose to receive free automatic sunscreen dispensers and a 1-year supply of sunscreen. Thousands of students received UV-activated bracelets, educational postcards, and bookmarks.
Nevada Cancer Coalition staff and volunteers provided 64 in-person and online sun safety presentations to teachers and students during the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 school years. The shift to online learning in 2020 allowed Sun Smart Schools presentations to reach students in many of Nevada’s rural communities. The coalition wants to expand the program to private and charter schools in the state.
Elizabeth and Gabriel Thompson make sure they are protecting their skin by applying sunscreen from the dispenser at Urban Roots Teaching Farm in Reno, Nevada.
Kenneth Piccirilli applies sunscreen from a complimentary dispenser at a City of Reno park.
Katelyn Rovig uses a sunscreen dispenser before heading to practice.